PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — With Prince George's County continuing to lag far behind other areas of Maryland in COVID-19 vaccination rates, Representative Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) criticized Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday and expressed concerns over the vaccine rollout in the state.
As of Monday. Maryland Department of Health records showed Prince George's County in last for the percentage of the population that has received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Records showed the county with a 3.5% rate, while areas like Anne Arundel County and Montgomery County were double that number.
Rep. Brown, who represents parts of Prince George's County, called the vaccine rollout in Maryland "slow and inequitable" on Monday and put a focus on Governor Hogan's comments connecting low minority vaccination rates with vaccine hesitancy.
“Governor Hogan wants to blame people for not getting the vaccine, but under his watch, Maryland has the second-lowest administration rate in the country, long waitlists, and a chaotic sign-up process," said Congressman Anthony Brown. “The failure to clearly communicate vaccine availability and effectively distribute doses to high-risk populations will ultimately harm communities of color and underserved populations most. It’s not credible for the Hogan Administration to blame low minority vaccination rates solely on vaccine hesitancy. This is clearly a systemic failure. The current strategy is not working. For the health of Marylanders, it’s time to change course.”
The statement from Brown came a day after Montgomery County Chief Public Health Officer Travis Gayles was interviewed on 60 Minutes and expressed frustration with the small number of vaccine doses given to the area.
"We have over 72,000 individuals who are over the age of 75 in Montgomery County. We're receiving as a local health department a weekly allotment of 4,500 doses," he said. "The capacity where we're set right now, these sites could probably double at least the number of doses that they put out, given an increase in supply."
The Prince George's County Health Department said more than 118,000 residents were signed up for pre-registration to receive the vaccine. A county spokesperson added that vaccine allotment decisions are made by the state, not the county.
After being contacted by WUSA9, a spokesperson for Governor Larry Hogan did not comment on the vaccine hesitancy in the state but instead pointed to recent increases in vaccination rates and allocations in Prince George's County and Montgomery County during the latest two-week period.
On Monday, Community Ministry of Prince George's County Executive Director Jimmie Slade echoed the supply concerns and said many members of the ministry were eager to get vaccinated.
"We think that availability or the shortage of supply of the vaccine is a much more significant challenge than the hesitancy," said Slade, who has helped lead the group's efforts to promote awareness about getting vaccinated. "We think that the community is prepared to receive the vaccine, we just don’t have the doses.”
Slade said one of the biggest challenges being experienced by members involved internet and digital device issues, which made booking a vaccine appointment even tougher for them.
"It takes quite a bit of experience with the computer to know how to get an appointment," he said. "We have others that are not really linked with the computers that don’t know how to go about getting an appointment.”
Slade told WUSA9 that he and his wife have experienced some of the issues firsthand. After moving through the registration process recently, officially booking the appointment brought challenges.
"We watched the openings just literally dwindle in front of our eyes as she was trying to book that appointment," he said. "We need more knowledge about the process of applying for the appointment and we also need some telephone receptionists to receive the calls in addition to the computer calls. We recognize that in some areas, computer access is not that good. Even if you have a computer, your internet reliability is not that good.”
Moving forward, Slade said he and his members hoped more vaccine doses would become available.
"The broadening of the distribution is very key," he said. "If we can get the dosage, we believe that we will see a significant increase in the number of people actually vaccinated.”